Shutdown Prompts IRS to Delay Start of Tax Season

Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel J. Scott Applewhite/AP

In another indicator of the impact from the 16-day government shutdown, the Internal Revenue Service on Tuesday announced that the 2014 tax season originally slated to begin Jan. 21 will be delayed by one-to-two weeks.

The reason: The agency needs time to program and test tax processing systems.

“The IRS is exploring options to shorten the expected delay and will announce a final decision on the start of the 2014 filing season in December,” acting Commissioner Danny Werfel said. With the delay, “the IRS would start accepting and processing 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than Jan. 28 and no later than Feb. 4.”

During the closure, the IRS received 400,000 pieces of correspondence on top of the 1 million items already being processed before the shutdown, the agency said in a release.

Noting that the shutdown -- which furloughed 90 percent of IRS staff -- came during the peak period for preparing for the 2014 filing season, the agency said that “programming, testing and deployment of more than 50 IRS systems is needed to handle processing of nearly 150 million tax returns. Updating these core systems is a complex, year-round process with the majority of the work beginning in the fall of each year.”

The closures put the agency about three weeks behind schedule, the statement noted, adding that “there are additional training, programming and testing demands on IRS systems this year in order to provide additional refund fraud and identity theft detection and prevention.”

Werfel said the agency wants “the public and tax professionals to know about the delay well in advance so they can prepare.” The April 15 tax return deadline is set by statute and remains in effect.

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